Sexual abuse – it’s not a comfortable topic…
It’s much easier to ignore it, to sweep it under the carpet and pretend that it doesn’t happen, or at least to convince ourselves that it’s a rare occurrence – something that may happen occasionally elsewhere to other people, but not here…
Not to people we know – in our community… in our church…
I’ve seen the looks of discomfort on people’s faces when I’ve tried to raise the topic. I’ve witnessed the awkward shuffle, the averting of the eyes, the frantic attempts to move the conversation back onto safer ground… and of course the silence.
And I understand – it would be easier if I could stay silent too. But no matter how hard I try, something (or Someone) deep inside me compels me to speak.
- Because it’s an issue that is all too common (accurate statistics are hard to find, but I’ve seen studies indicating that it affects anything between 7% and 18% of people, and either way, that’s a lot). There will be people in your church and in your community who are impacted.
- Because Scripture encourages us to “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” (Proverbs 31:8 NLT)
- Because as Christians we have so much to offer people – God’s heart is for the broken, and his Kingdom is one of hope and healing and freedom and justice. The #MeToo movement has opened up conversation about the scale of the problem, but all too often the church is silent about the hope we have to offer. We have left the hurting lying by the side of the road and walked on by on the other side instead of stopping and binding up their wounds as Jesus calls us to do.
Mary DeMuth’s book We Too is a call to the church to rise up and change this – to respond to the sexual abuse crisis, and to individual survivors, in a way that is redemptive, that points to hope and healing.
I think this book is a “must-read” for anyone who is involved in Christian leadership or ministry.
It looks at what the Bible has to say about the topic of sexual abuse – and there’s plenty in there. Despite it being a topic the church often avoids, the Bible doesn’t shy away from it!
The book explores some of the (often unhelpful) ways the church has responded to situations of abuse in the past and some of the reasons the church struggles to deal well with it in the present, such as bad theology that promotes a cheap and easy grace which rushes to offer forgiveness to offenders while ignoring the severity of the impact on their victims and denying them justice.
The book features many real-life stories as well as biblical examples and practical advice and, above all, it is a call to the church to rise up and fulfil its potential of being a place where children are protected, and a safe place for the wounded to heal.
Mary DeMuth writes as one who loves the church and longs to see it be all that it could, and should, be in this area.
I hope and pray that this book will help many to get over the awkwardness and start the conversation about how we can be this kind of church.
So, how should we respond to stories of abuse?
First of all, here are some examples of what not to say:
I think often the avoidance of the topic stems from fear of saying the wrong thing, or just not knowing what to say in the first place, but really, the right thing is often very simple.
First of all, listen. That is probably the most important thing we can do.
Then, if you’re looking for something to say, try one of these:
- “I believe you.”
- “I’m sorry.”
- “It was not your fault.”
- “You are not alone.”
- “Thank you for having the courage to share.”
We don’t need to have all the answers, just compassion, empathy, and a willingness to walk alongside those on the journey of healing.
I love the way Lauren Daigle’s beautiful song “Rescue” speaks of God’s heart for the wounded.
“You are not hidden;
There’s never been a moment
You were forgotten.
You are not hopeless,
Though you have been broken,
Your innocence stolen.
I hear you whisper underneath your breath.
I hear your SOS, your SOS.
I will send out an army to find you
In the middle of the darkest night.
It’s true, I will rescue you.”
The image of God sending out an army to find the wounded is a powerful one, and I believe that we, the church, are called to be that army. This book is both a rallying cry and a practical guide to help equip us to answer that call.
I’m grateful to Harvest House for access to a complementary digital copy of the book. This is an honest review and I only share books here that I genuinely believe will be beneficial to my readers.
Amazon links are not affiliate links, but simply provided for your convenience.